‘Dialogical spaces for a diverse university’ is one of the initiatives supported by the 2020 UT Incentive Fund. Two of the organizers, UT scientists Fenna Hoefsloot and Ana Bustamante Duarte, explain why they ‘wanted to create space for the UT community to reflect critically on university practices’.
Why did you decide to start this initiative at the UT?
Hoefsloot: ‘We mainly wanted to expand our understanding of issues related to diversity and inclusion (D&I). When we talk of D&I at the UT, it is often limited to only a few topics, such as internationalization and the number of female professors. But it is so much more. Also, the discussion usually focuses only on the UT as an employer, not necessarily as a research and educational institute. We therefore wanted to explore different dimensions of D&I and learn about different ways we could incorporate it in our practices.’
What exactly does the project entail?
Bustamante Duarte: ‘We are organizing eight webinars with external experts, who will bring in the knowledge and experience related to different topics, such as non-binary and trans rights within the university, race and technology and decolonizing the curriculum. On top of that, we will produce a podcast series focused on our experience at the University of Twente. We will interview different people from within the UT and together explore what is already being done and reflect on where we want to go.’
What motivated you to start this project?
Hoefsloot: ‘We of course thought that the topic is important in general, but the specific motivation came with the Black Lives Matter protests. That was a great inspiration for us and it made us reflect on what we were doing. One of the main message of the Black Lives Matter movement was “educate yourself”. We need to become aware of injustice that happens on different levels. We want to focus on the University of Twente, on institutional change at our institution – because that’s where we can actually make an impact.’
Bustamante Duarte: ‘We wanted to start a discussion here. About eighty participants have signed up for the first session. This shows us that there is a big interest in having this discussion.’
What do you hope the initiative will accomplish?
Hoefsloot: ‘The initiative alone will not change any policies, but we are in contact with the Shaping 2030 expert group on Diversity and Inclusion and with the D&I officer at the UT. We are very happy with that, because whatever insights the initiative provides will be there for them to work with. Overall, we hope this helps people to reflect on what they can do as a person and that will hopefully feed into the university, making it more diverse and inclusive.’